IT WAS A case of trial by media last week, according to the Law Council of Australia (LCA), when Channel Nine aired a television special on accused drug smuggler Schapelle Corby.
Criticising the screening of Schapelle’s Nightmare: The Untold Story as potentially jeopardising Corby’s chances of receiving a fair hearing, LCA president John North said: “The legal profession is fighting an uphill battle in its search for justice when the media appoints itself judge and jury.”
Last week’s program presented arguments for and against Corby’s case, and asked the studio audience to decide whether it thinks the Australian is a drug smuggler. Viewers were also asked to send text messages with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ verdicts.
Labelling the television screening a “crass scramble for ratings”, North said the producers are taking the case out of the courtroom and are turning it into a “three-ring television circus”. “It is, at best, irresponsible and, at worst, potentially very harmful to her plight,” North said.
“Channel Nine’s production trivialises a very serious situation where an Australian citizen is potentially facing life in prison,” he said.
The Law Council has been critical of public comments on the Corby case made to the media recently by Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty.
The criticisms came after Keelty claimed that Corby’s defence was not supported by AFP intelligence.
North said Keelty should not be providing public commentary on the defence case, arguing “several comments made to the media by [Keelty] regarding the Corby case are potentially harmful as they will no doubt be transmitted to authorities in Bali”.
“[Keelty] would not be able to make such damaging comments in an Australian case because he would run a grave risk of being found in contempt of court,” said North. “Australians deserve more from their chief law enforcement officers when being tried overseas,” he said.
“[Keelty] has acted dangerously in attempting to play down these accusations against baggage handlers. An Australian law enforcement authority with responsibilities for investigating allegations and proving evidence to prosecutors for production in court should not be commenting publicly on such matters while a case is pending,” said North.